Norway has urged the Swiss pharma major Novartis to withdraw its patents case against India (see 'Patent puzzle', Down To Earth, February 28, 07). The Norwegian government is part owner of Novartis.
In its May 2006 petition, Novartis sought changes in India's patent laws. The case, which is being heard at the Madras High Court, is scheduled for its next hearing in June 2007.
In a letter to Novartis's chief executive officer Daniel Vasella, Norwegian minister for international development Erik Solheim said "India contributes in very significant ways to the overall production capacity for life-saving generic drugs, with major exports to developing countries. It is important that this contribution continues."
Besides, building in public health safeguards in national patent laws to ensure that patents do not limit access to medicines is a right of every country, Vasella noted in the letter."The cost of innovation can't be borne by countries and people with the weakest economic capacity," noted Vasella. The minister also added that international trade policies and agreements need to be placed within the context of protecting and promoting health and well-being, since global health security depends on the public health of each country.
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